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SoHo Artists Face Off Against Developer to Protect One-Story Building

By Andrea Swalec | March 6, 2013 1:42pm | Updated on March 6, 2013 1:59pm

SOHO — The city landmarks commission has approved plans for the creation of an eight-story residential building in the place of a Wooster Street parking lot and one-story building — but that will change if several longtime SoHo residents have anything to say about it.

Backed by a dozen of her neighbors, Wooster Street resident and abstract painter Marcia Godosky, 75, has filed a lawsuit against the Landmarks Preservation Commission asking the agency to reverse a decision made in October that the MacLaren baby stroller store, at 150 Wooster St., can be razed because it is not historically significant.

Due in court Monday, Godosky and other artists, many of whom transformed the industrial neighborhood in the 1970s, will try to stop MTM Associates from building seven high-end residential units and 6,300 square feet of ground-floor retail on Wooster Street just south of West Houston Street.

They argue the new construction would change the character of the block, obstruct light and attract more foot traffic.

"The building that [MTM] proposed is way out of scale for this street," said Godosky, who has had studio space in SoHo since 1976.

"It would block light to everyone on this section of Wooster and cast shadows on surrounding buildings."

"And if they build a store that large, it will be a mall-type store. We're trying to keep more mall-type stores out of SoHo."

Godosky, who lives just north of the city-approved development site, said she and her neighbors formed a group called Friends of the One-Story Building a few months ago to try to reverse the LPC decision.

Back in 1973, the plain garage that stood at 150 Wooster St. was designated part of the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District, according to the lawsuit filed Feb. 11. Later, in Feb. 2008, the LPC restated that the building contributed to SoHo architecture when the agency approved work on its facade.

"[The] building's style, scale, materials and details contribute to the special architectural and historic character of the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District," an LPC document says.

But when MTM Associates requested LPC approval to demolish the building, the agency approved it in October, stating the building "does not contribute to the historic district and its demolition will not detract from the special historic and architectural character of the historic district."

Wooster Street artist Joyce Kozloff, 70, said the LPC decision is one in a series of recent moves by the city that favor large developers over community concerns.

"Landmarks has become much more secretive and pro-development than they used to be," she said.

The city law department, which is representing the LPC, disputed the claim that commissioners had flip-flopped.

"As the proceedings before the Landmarks Commission reflect, and as will be demonstrated to the court, the Commission’s actions with respect to this building have not only been consistent, but also appropriate to the special features of the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District," senior counsel Pamela Koplik said in a statement.

An attorney for MTM was not immediately available to comment on the timing of the demolition or construction.